Friday, May 14, 2010

Lesson with Brian Sabo

Wait, what's that sound? Do you hear it chugging its way closer? I think it might be the sound of a COMEBACK IN PROGRESS!!

Ringo and I had another awesome jumping lesson with Brian Sabo today. Brian complimented Ringo right off the bat, saying that he's looking really good at the moment. I must say I agree: he's in great weight, has a nice bloom on his coat, a whole new chunk of topline from our past month's foray into dressage, and he's never seemed more calm or at ease. We had a nice warmup, though Brian still had to remind me to really hold Ringo to his straightness, especially in the upward canter transitions. I did feel though, that I had him better in front of my leg than last time (spurs helped!), and in general our transitions were much better in terms of maintaining energy up and down.

Once we got jumping, it was a matter of building on what we talked about last time: the approach strategy. I need to keep Ringo forward through the turn, half halt (without losing that forward energy), set the stride length, and then maintain to the base. Somewhere in that as well I need to keep him straight and keep myself straight on top of him. An interesting thing Brian picked up on quickly is the fact that I have a hard time keeping my side-to-side balance on Ringo; I've noticed this as long as I've had him (I think his compactness and agility are particularly hard for my long angles to keep up with), and it's definitely frustrating to me as my balance is usually one of my better qualities. So, a lot of the focus for me was making sure I really grounded myself evenly across his back, especially in the final approach to the fence. It was remarkable how much better his straightness immediately became! Goes to show the power of the signals I'm sending him without even realizing it...

After a few opening fences, we strung together a few short courses. I have to say, some of the 3' fences were still looking a little large when we started out! But man, Ringo was such a star. We did a few courses of increasing difficulty (by reducing the distance in front of each fence, requiring a quicker and quicker application of the approach strategy while keeping the impulsion), and then finished up with an adjustability exercise in a line. Adjustability in lines is usually something we struggle with, and more often than not more strides are achieved through crookedness, not collection. However, by changing the groundline of the two verticals from both upright for the collected stride to both more pulled out and ascending for the open stride, and then using the appropriate approach strategy, Ringo rattled off the more collected and more extended stridings like it was no big thing-- and stayed straight while he was at it, too!

The more we practiced the approach strategy, the more I felt him relax and start to enjoy himself. Ringo is a horse that needs to feel supported, and putting a regular system in place like this in front of every fence seems to be just the kind of connection to me that he needs. Now, we just need to get the system in place to where we can do it together in our sleep! I need to be consistent in my aids, first and foremost, which is just going to take lots of practice over little fences to get it down pat. After today, I'm very excited to begin! Ringo definitely reminded me how fun he is to jump =)

Tomorrow we practice our tests for Woodside next week. Eep! Getting very excited, and more than a bit nervous!

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